Five keys for a Bulldog victory
by Jeff Dantzler
photo by Rob Saye
1. Rugged Run Defense – Auburn has a dynamite tailback duo in Onterio McCalebb and Tre Mason. This has been a terrible season for the Tigers, but make no mistake, these two are an elite combo. Georgia’s defense is going to have to turn up that fierce run defense that was on display in the 17-9 victory over Florida in Jacksonville. Georgia’s ends must stay at home and the linebackers must practice gap integrity. Mason runs with power and one potential tackler rarely brings him down. McCalebb is extremely elusive and can cut as quickly as any back in the league. Sound-tackling, hard-hitting classic defense against these two is a must if the Bulldogs are to avoid the upset.
2. Pressure the Quarterback – Not only did Georgia play great run defense in Jacksonville, the Bulldogs did an excellent job pressuring Gator quarterback Jeff Driskel. The defense is going to have to get after it again Saturday night. Auburn has had all kinds of problems at quarterback this season. So no matter who is behind center for Tigers – Clint Moseley, Kiehl Frazier or Jonathan Wallace – the Bulldogs will have the opportunity to create turnovers and put the Auburn in negative yardage situations. Georgia’s defense can deliver knockout blows. If Auburn has time to throw, Emory Blake is a dangerous threat at receiver who can hurt any defense.
3. High Octane Offense – Auburn has had its troubles on defense this season, most notably in a 63-21 loss to Texas A&M at Jordan-Hare Stadium two weeks ago. Georgia’s offense has had some high points – like a 48-3 victory over Vanderbilt and 51-44 win over Tennessee – but also some struggles. Georgia scored just seven at South Carolina. Seventeen was enough in Jacksonville. I think of John McKay in his first season with the Bucs and the classic NFL Films clip – “we can’t stop the run, we can’t stop the pass. Outside of that, we’re okay.” Auburn fans were feeling that against the Aggies. It’s up to the offense to set the tone and put the Tigers behind the eight ball. Remember, this same Auburn defense played valiantly in a 12-10 loss at home to LSU.
4. Steady Special Teams – Nobody is expecting for Georgia to come out with a dominating special teams performance, but the Bulldogs must at least be competitive in the kicking game. Georgia has a better offense than Auburn. Georgia has a better defense than Auburn. Expect for the Tigers to try and make some kind of mark in the kicking game. Georgia must be prepared. Auburn has had some moments this season. McCalebb had a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in a 28-10 loss to Mississippi State in Starkville.
5. Provide No Light – As high as the Tigers were during their impressive 14-0 national and SEC championship run, they are that low now. Auburn is winless in the league. In their last conference game, they were embarrassed by Texas A&M. But they still have their two old rivals – Auburn’s “big two” – Georgia and Alabama. An upset would be a sorely needed bright spot in a dreary campaign. Georgia must come out flying and focused, expecting the Auburn squad that nearly upset LSU. If it’s close in the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs will be in trouble. The longer the underdog hangs around, the more the underdog believes it can win. Jumping out to a lead and keeping the pressure on – a la the Dogs romp over Vanderbilt – would be tough for the Tigers and their struggling passing game to overcome. And it could send some of the boisterous Auburn faithful to the exits early.